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Numerical Cognition - PSY00003H

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  • Department: Psychology
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Silke Goebel
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2020-21
    • See module specification for other years: 2019-20

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Autumn Term 2020-21

Module aims

Every day we deal with numbers (paying bills, making phone calls). What are the mental representations and processes involved in those activities? This module reviews recent research and theorizing on this issue. It will start with a reflection on why studying numerical cognition in general might be useful. In this first session an introduction to the key questions, main models and research methods used in the field will be given. We will also look at key findings of number processing in adults (such as the larger the number the longer it takes people to process the number). There is growing evidence that to a certain extent animals process numerosity too. In session 2 we will investigate this literature, compare it to number processing in humans and discuss controversial issues such as whether animals can really count. In the third seminar we will look at the typical development of numerical and mathematical skills in children. Some children (and adults) struggle with number processing and arithmetic. Seminar 4 will focus on Mathematics Disorder, difficulties in number processing and arithmetic. Interactions between representations of space and numerosity will be investigated in session 5. In the following session we will learn about the neural basis of number processing by discussing studies of brain imaging in healthy adults and of patients who lost part of their numerical abilities after brain injury. In the last session we will take a cross-cultural perspective and evaluate the influence of culture and language on number processing and arithmetic.

Module learning outcomes

  • Describe the main cognitive characteristics of number processing in adults, children and animals
  • Give an account of empirical research relating to current issues in the field of numerical cognition
  • Describe the relationship between various models of number processing
  • Give an account of models of number processing on the basis of empirical data from a wide range of research fields and methods
  • Understand the distinction between developmental and acquired dyscalculia

Module content

  1. Why study Numerical Cognition ? Introduction to key issues, basic effects, models and methods
  2. How do animals deal with quantities ?
  3. Development of number skills
  4. Mathematical Disorder
  5. Spatial representations of numbers
  6. Neural basis of number processing
  7. Cross-cultural differences in number processing and arithmetic


Task Length % of module mark
Online Exam
Numerical Cognition
N/A 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
Online Exam
Numerical Cognition
N/A 100

Module feedback

The marks on all assessed work will be provided on e-vision.

These marks will be accompanied by module feedback forms which will be circulated by e-mail.

Students will meet supervisors in wk 6 in AuT, SpT and wk 9 in SuT to discuss their marks.

Indicative reading

Sample Reading:

Gilmore, C., Göbel, S.M., & Inglis, M. (2018). An Introduction to Mathematical Cognition. International Texts in Developmental Psychology. Hove: Routledge
Dehaene, S. (2011). The number sense: How the mind creates mathematics. New York, Oxford: OUP.
Göbel, S.M., Shaki, S. & Fischer, M. H. (2011). The Cultural Number Line: A Review of Cultural and Linguistic Influences on the Development of Number Processing. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology 42(3).

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.